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Update: Airshow China 2021: Chinese air force unveils EW variant of J-16 multirole fighter aircraft

A screengrab from CCTV footage released on 24 September showing the SAC J-16D electronic warfare aircraft in Zhuhai a few days before the start of the Airshow China 2021 defence exhibition. (CCTV)

The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has unveiled an electronic warfare (EW) variant of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-16 multirole fighter aircraft at the Airshow China 2021 defence exhibition being held from 28 September to 3 October in Zhuhai.

Known as the J-16D, the two-seat aircraft was seen parked in the static display area of the exhibition bearing standard PLAAF insignia. Wang Ya'nan, chief editor of the Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, was quoted by the Global Times newspaper as saying that this suggests the platform is in service.

Additionally, the aircraft bears construction number ‘0109' on the side of its engine intakes, indicating that it is the ninth aircraft from the first production batch. However, the platform features no serial number on its tail, making it difficult to determine which unit it has been assigned to.

The first prototype of the J-16D, which is essentially a suppression of enemy air-defences (SEAD) variant, reportedly flew in December 2015, according to Janes All the World's Aircraft .

Based on images available from the airshow, the aircraft presents noticeable differences from the baseline J-16, including two prominent electronic warfare pods (electronic support measures/electronic signals intelligence) on the wingtips, four large jamming pods under its wings and air inlets, and a shorter nose radome that likely houses a slightly smaller active electronically scanned-array (AESA) radar.

Regarding the EW pods, Janes

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